BAYOMBONG—The provincial government of Nueva Viscaya has slammed an Australian mining company for its alleged refusal to settle its local tax obligations.
Gov. Ruth Padilla expressed dismay over the failure of Melbourne-based OceanaGold operating in Didipio, Kasibu town to honor its commitment to the province.
“This is unfair, unjust and a disrespect to our authority as local government units. They did not keep their promise as they have been telling us when they were still pleading for their business permits from local government units,” Padilla said during the launching of the province’s Environment Code.
In 2013, OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. paid its excise tax amounting to P70 million but filed an interpleader case before the Regional Trail Court in Makati City.
OceanaGold officials said they filed a case seeking a court order to determine which province Oceana Gold should legally pay its tax obligations.
The provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino are both claiming local taxes from OceanaGold. The two provinces have a standing boundary dispute over the area in Didipio village where OceanaGold is conducting its gold and copper project.
With the interpleader case, OceanaGold’s tax payment has been frozen by the RTC pending the settlement of the boundary dispute.
“It would have helped both provinces if OceanaGold earlier filed its interpleader case before the start of their project instead of doing it in the middle of its operations,” Padilla lamented.
She said OceanaGold’s legal action shows their disrespect and a runaround betraying the trust of local officials and the people of Nueva Vizcaya.
“This is unthinkable because our province has not benefited, not even with road developments which the company has promised. Our present situation is contrary to what we have expected,” Padilla said.
Earlier, Oceana Gold (Philippines) Inc. said it was paying in full its tax obligations to Nueva Vizcaya and to all other government entities.
Bradley Norman, OceanaGold country director, clarified a report published by a Manila-based daily that OceanaGold had an unsettled obligation with Nueva Vizcaya. “The misimpression that OceanaGold is remiss in the payment of real property taxes arises from the fact that the issue of where to pay them is currently uncertain and is yet to be decided by the court,” Norman said in an article that was carried by the MST Online edition on January 13, 2015.
Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces have both sent OceanaGold real property tax assessments, which put OceanaGold in a dilemma, Norman said.
The issue is the subject of a case pending before Branch 142 of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City. The case will decide the boundary-jurisdiction confusion between Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino and where the real property taxes should be paid.